What causes curled leaves on Citrus trees and how to prevent it

Last updated on March 30th, 2022

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Citrus trees make bright, delightful additions to any indoor or outdoor space. They also give you a steady supply of citrus fruits for whatever desserts you want to make. Growing citrus trees in pots are one of the most successful ways to enjoy these warm-weather loving trees in a cold-weather environment.

However, if you have worked hard to plant and maintain your citrus trees and now you notice the leaves are starting to curl, it’s time for some intervention. Curled leaves can indicate a serious problem of environmental issues.

See our article on citrus trees problems in this guide by clicking here

What causes the leaves to curl on a citrus tree?

When the leaves curl on your citrus tree, it could be caused by environmental issues or by pests. No matter the cause, curling leaves are an indication of a problem. Below are the most common causes and how you can manage them.

Pests that cause curled leaves in citrus

Aphids attacking citrus tree leaves

Aphids & Mites

Pests like mites and aphids suck out the sap from the leaves of the citrus. They extract the juices from the tissues inside the leaves. And as the population of pests grow, they cause deformation and discolouration. The most prominent distortion is curling leaves. You might notice that the leaves are just starting to curl, and if you check the underside, you will see the tiny pests feeding in groups.

As soon as you see pests, spray them with insecticidal soap or pesticide especially for fruit and be sure to coat the entire leaf. This should be a process you repeat every 2 weeks until your plant recovers, and there are no remaining signs of any pest problems.

curling leaves caused by citrus leaf miners

Citrus leaf miner

Citrus leaf miners are another serious pest problem that, as the name suggests, only affects citrus leaves. They work very similarly, but instead of sucking out the juices from the leaves, they tunnel through the leaf tissues. You will see the signs of this pest in the form of white or yellow lines along your otherwise green leaf surface. The problem with Citrus Leaf miners is that they’re difficult to treat.

Some people suggest that you let them run their course because most citrus plants can tolerate a pretty heavy bout of Citrus Leaf Miners and they very rarely will kill the plant, other people suggest you throw out the plant entirely and start over. You can also try spraying with a pesticide such as Provado Ultimate Bug Killer.

SBM Life Science 80585047 Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer RTU 1L
  • Kills most common insect pests on a comprehensive range of fruit and vegetable plants such as apples and pears.
  • Contact insecticide that can protect from pests for up to 2 weeks.
  • Ideal for Grow your own.
  • Kills and controls greenfly, blackfly, caterpillars, beetles, weevils, apple & pear suckers, capsids, sawfly, whitefly.

Environmental Issues

citrus leaf problems caused by cold

Lack of water

Another cause of citrus leaves curling is environmental. Drought stress is the most common cause and you should count yourself lucky if it’s your cause because it’s also the easiest to treat. If your leaves are starting to curl inwards, but the leaves and the soil around the tree is very dry, it just means you aren’t watering your plants enough.

You can apply extra mulch around the base and increase your watering. Hold off on fertilising your tree until it resumes healthy leaf production. We recommend watering frequently in summer but wait for the surface of the soil to dry before watering again. Allow the water to drain through into a saucer but don’t leave the pot sitting in water because this can lead to overwatering.

Potassium deficiency

One other environmental issue is that of a potassium deficiency. If your leaves are curling, they are bent downwards at the tip, and they have a yellow hue, it could mean they lack potassium. Check the pH and nutrient levels to make sure this is the problem and once that’s confirmed, add some fertiliser with extra potassium.

Be sure to water when you add the fertiliser so that the potassium can move through the root structure. Usually using a winter or summer feed is enough to resolve this issue.

Vitax Citrus Feed for Summer Soluble Plant Feeds,
  • High nitrogen content is ideal for citrus plants
  • Discourages premature ripening, fruit drop and leaf discolouration
  • Apply weekly from April to September
Vitax Citrus Feed for Winter Soluble Plant Feeds,
  • Carefully balanced to maintain growth
  • Helps prevent premature leaf fall and discolouration
  • Apply weekly from October to March

Cold temperatures

If your citrus tree is exposed to the cold it can cause the leaves to start to curl and maybe droop a little. This is usually a problem in winter when moved indoors into a room that is too cold or exposed to cold drafts from open doors. Learn more about overwintering citrus trees in this guide.

Overall, the best way to prevent curled leaves on your citrus tree is to water regularly so that it doesn’t have to contend with drought, but also avoid over-watering. Periodically check the pH levels to ensure that the soil is providing adequate nutrients. And finally, be on the lookout for pests and deal with them as soon as you see them. 

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Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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